Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Aquinas Lecture, 2013: Matthew Levering - 'Aquinas & the Gospel'

Thursday, January 31, 2013
On 30th January Blackfriars held its annual Aquinas Lecture. This year the speaker was Matthew Levering, Professor of Religious Studies at Dayton University, USA. He spoke to a packed hall on the subject of ‘Aquinas and the Gospel’, specifically ‘The Pauline Gospel According to Aquinas’. His major source was the commentary by St Thomas on the letter to the Romans, and he focused on the detailed commentary made by Aquinas on the first three verses of the letter. Read more

Councils of Faith: Lateran IV (1215)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Fourth Lateran Council (November 1215) represents a high-point in ecclesiastical governance in the Middle Ages. It is also of special interest to us here as it formed the backdrop to the establishment of the Order of Preachers in 1216.  Read more

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, January 28, 2013
I could not let today pass without saying a quick word about St. Thomas Aquinas, my intellectual hero and generally one of my favorite saints.

Aquinas was born in 1224/5 to a noble family at a time of political tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor. Because Aquinas’s family supported the Emperor in this struggle they sent the young Thomas, after some initial schooling at the famous Benedictine Abbey Monte Casino, to study at the imperial university in Naples. Unlike the ecclesiastical universities, students at Naples were allowed to study Aristotle, whose writings were just beginning to filter back in to the Latin West via the Muslim World.

There was a perception at this time that Aristotelian science lead to conclusions that contradicted revelation and in some circles this science was therefore considered to be a threat to traditional Augustinian theology. It was the genius of Aquinas to synthesize these two streams of thought, the Augustinian and the Aristotelian, by showing the complementary nature of faith and reason.

The result is a liberating vision of the world and human life in which God holds all things in being through his creative love, and calls human beings to live in friendship with him in this life, and eternal happiness with him in the next.  Read more

Conversion of Saint Paul

Friday, January 25, 2013

The story of the conversion of Paul, (who used to be Saul) is an interesting one. That example, of an apostle who became the most productive in writing and pastoral activity without having set his eyes on the risen Christ, could be used to understand that Christ never abandoned his disciples after his resurrection.

After the resurrection of Christ and the Pentecost, Peter and the other apostles had started to preach the Gospel. Some of the disciples had started to baptize Gentiles. However, the new faith was only strong in Palestine till the martyrdom of Stephen. Then Christians were scattered in the world. But even then, it became a heavy and difficult matter for the disciples to accept the Gentiles in the Church. For the Gospel to be well spread in foreign nations, it needed someone who knew Judaism well and could relate well to foreigners, someone who could easily approach poor people as well as rich ones, uneducated and educated people. Saul had all the needed qualities: he was born in Judaism, grew up in Tarsus, became a Pharisee, and had Roman nationality.

Coming back to the persecution of the first disciples after the resurrection, the Pharisees and the Scribes could not believe what they were experiencing: how could those disciples, mostly uneducated men and women, preach Jesus's resurrection after having deserted him when he was arrested? Where did they get their new zeal? What could be the means to stop them? For a while, the Pharisees thought that they had a solution in a young man, Saul of Tarsus, who seemed to be as zealous as those Christians. And in addition to the zeal, Saul had also the power and the force to silence the Christians.

He started his mission with an eagerness that made him notoriously evil for Christians. One day he found himself witnessing, and consenting to, the death of the first Christian martyr. He then became a terror. He approved or ordered the death of many Christians. He put many others in jail. However, his zeal to persecute Christians ended when he was about to persecute the Christians in Damascus. A spectacular thing happened to him. He repeats the story in these words: “On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ and he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting. My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me” (Acts 22: 6-9). The circumstances of those events might be understood by some as a figurative way of conveying a much stronger and overwhelming experience. Did he start to reflect on the meaning of Christianity at the stoning of Stephen? No one can tell. Nonetheless, the extent of the change in him after his conversion was unquestionably amazing.

Much has been written on the conversion of Paul and it remains one of the most beautiful stories of conversion. One among many things that we could learn from this story is that God knows how to defend the Church. The Church and the believers can’t claim to protect God and faith, they are just instruments used by God. God knows how and when to use them. Their role is to be available and willing to be instruments. When the Church goes through harsh moments like those of the persecuted Early Church, and when we rightly or misguidedly believe that we are under attack, we should not lose hope. Adopting the attitude of a violent zeal would only prove our lack of faith. We might use fierce enthusiasm thinking that we are defending God and our faith, but then, just as Paul before his conversion, we would be highly mistaken.
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'This House would be glad to have gay parents'

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Last Thursday, the Oxford Union Society debated the motion, This House would be glad to have gay parents. Speaking for the Proposition were student Crawford Jamieson, journalist Benjamin Cohen, LGBT activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and 'Right Said Fred' vocalist Richard Fairbrass. On the other side were Anthony McCarthy of SPUC, Peter D Williams of Catholic Voices, Pentecostalist minister and political campaigner George Hargreaves, and social commentator Lynette BurrowsRead more

Ecumenical Councils: Lateran I - III

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Our series on the Ecumenical councils of the Church here on Godzdogz has so far been dominated by the controversies in the Greek speaking East. The first three Lateran councils, convoked in a 60 year period between 1123 and 1179, mark a shift in focus towards the west. In these councils we see the Church wrestling in a very practical way with the question of authority. In the wake of the Western Roman Empire’s fall, the Papacy had stepped into a power vacuum at the heart of western European society. Yet as the centuries passed and European culture saw a political renewal the Church found it increasingly necessary to resist secular attempts to curtail its autonomy. Lateran I – III, then, can be seen as part of a broader project led by a number of reforming Popes in the eleventh and twelfth century to assert the independence of the Church from the crown and tighten clerical discipline.  Read more

John Baptist Watson OP RIP (1929-2013)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Please join us in praying for the repose of the soul of our brother John Baptist Watson OP, of our Newcastle community, who died on 5th January and was buried yesterday. Brother John Baptist was born in the North East in 1929, and, after joining the order as young man (being professed on 30th December 1951), he served as a lay (cooperator) brother in various priories, later being ordained to the permanent diaconate, which he exercised in Newcastle for many years. His health declined in recent years, and he moved into a nursing home near the priory, where he received something of a new lease of life ministering to his fellow residents and, for example, leading them in praying the Rosary. After a short illness, he died in the Newcastle Infirmary, having received the Sacraments from his Superior. Read more

Ecumenical Councils: Constantinople IV, 869-70.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
This council was centred around whether Photius ought, or ought not, to be Patriarch of Constantinople.  It involved clear political interactions and, what is more, the political situation was complex, and changed significantly over short periods of time. An interaction with actual ‘secular’ politics and civic life is a feature of many of the ecumenical councils. An awareness of political factors is probably common to them all. After all, the Church exists in and interacts with the world. In common with other councils, it passed canons that have proved important over time, and often of more significance and use in theology, than the central business for which such councils were principally called. Read more

God Matters?

Monday, January 14, 2013
Readers in striking distance of Oxford are warmly invited to join us for a series of talks exploring some of the challenging questions that non-believers sometimes put to people of faith. The talks - which will be given by a number of Dominicans, including Godzdogz's own Br Andrew Brookes - are free, and will take place on six consecutive Tuesdays at 8pm, starting on February 5th. The evenings will include an opportunity for open discussion and questions (as well as some refreshments: Dominicans believe in feeding mind and body!). Read more

Blackfriars, Canterbury

Sunday, January 13, 2013
Canterbury is in some ways the religious heart of England. That was certainly the case when the first Dominican friars arrived on these shores in 1221, the year of St Dominic's death. Yet they did not stay to found their first priory in the city of Augustine, Anselm and Thomas à Becket. They preached before Archbishop Stephen Langton, then made haste to London, the political capital. Again they moved on and did not stop until they came to Oxford, the (then) intellectual capital. Right from the start, we Dominicans have always been attracted to university centres, where our commitment to study and preaching can bear great fruit. Read more
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